India's Test record in Zimbabwe before this tour was an embarrassing one, with a single win and two defeats in four matches. No such problems were expected this time, and none were encountered on the field. The turmoil in the country as a whole and within Zimbabwe Cricket itself had reduced the national team's strength, some thought, to its weakest in half a century, and they were easily beaten in both Tests - India's first series victory outside the subcontinent since they defeated England in 1986.
Like Zimbabwe, however, India found that their troubles came from within. News leaked of a power struggle between the captain, Sourav Ganguly, and the new coach, Greg Chappell. Struggling to find his form and retain his position, Ganguly made his point with a century of great determination in the First Test, but angrily announced that Chappell, the former Australian captain, had told him in private that he did not consider him worth his place. This blew up into a major incident that followed the team home and turned into a controversy that divided the country.
Otherwise, it was a pleasant but uncompetitive series. India did not really miss Sachin Tendulkar, recovering from surgery on his elbow. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir gave their innings two good starts, with Gambhir almost as fluent as the more celebrated Sehwag and also fielding well at short leg. Indeed, with the exception of the final innings of the series, India's close catching was their most brilliant in years, especially that of Rahul Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman, who also regained their form with the bat.
But the player who did most to make the series one-sided was Irfan Pathan. His fierce, controlled swing bowling, on pitches doing little to encourage pace, brought him 21 wickets, equalling Johnny Briggs's record for a two- Test series, for England in South Africa in 1888-89.
Zimbabwe's inexperienced top order, already reeling from their encounter with Shane Bond of New Zealand, proved totally unequal to the challenge. Only once in four innings did they reach three figures before their sixth wicket fell, though the captain, Tatenda Taibu, managed two half-centuries in the First Test. Heath Streak, as ever, was the mainstay of Zimbabwe's bowling; with several seamers, including Douglas Hondo and Tinashe Panyangara, on the injury list, his support was mixed, though the attack was seen at its best on the second day at Harare. There were such glimmerings of improvement for Zimbabwe, but the failures of the batting continued to overshadow them.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Zimbabwe Board XI v Indians at Mutare, Sep 8-10, 2005